Wine From the Land of Kiwis

Wine lovers take note: The 1985 Nouveau is in.

It’s not, of course, the famous fruity, light red wine from France’s Beaujolais district--that’s not due till November. This nouveau is a fresh, summer white from Tolaga Bay on New Zealand’s east coast.

Auckland-based Corbans, which has imported its wines through Corbans Imports in Gardena for several years, decided to capitalize this year on the annually increasing Beaujolais mania, which last November saw Creston Manor, a small San Luis Obispo County winery, bringing its Beaujolais-style wine to market via stagecoach Nov. 13, beating the French original by two days. It was hardly a fair race, however, since French producers are forbidden by law from releasing their Beaujolais Nouveau until Nov. 15--about two months after the grapes are picked.

The Beaujolais phenomenon originated in France as a provincial celebration of the year’s harvest, where an “instant” French Burgundy was made by a special process to sample and celebrate the year’s harvest with a wine intended to be drunk that same year--a wine now called Beaujolais Nouveau (or new) and imitated in style by a growing number of California wine makers.


Now the tradition--and a little hype--have cropped up half a world away at Corbans, which begins its harvest as summer there ends in late February, six months before the harvest in Northern Hemisphere vineyards. Corbans’ Tolaga Bay spread is about 1 degree west of the International Dateline, “literally the first vineyards in the world to welcome the sunlight of each new day,” said Don Maisey, executive director of Corbans Imports.

The company produced 26,940 bottles of what it is calling its Nouveau Blanc de Blancs, which contains a blend of 60% Sylvaner-Riesling grapes, 30% Johannisberg Riesling and 10% Semillon. The wine, which is expected to retail for about $4 a bottle, is available at various Southern California supermarkets and liquor stores.